The home run is, unequivocally, the most exciting thing in baseball. Well, next to some drunken college junior jumping down onto the field and eluding security for five minutes of excitement that eclipses anything baseball could ever offer.
The home run, however, should be awesome. It's the great equalizer. It can instantly change a game and has long been reason enough for stadiums to light off a few hundred dollars worth of fireworks, sometimes even indoors (see: Kingdome, The). It's also capable of eliciting hugs between strangers, which is otherwise awkward - trust me.
But there's also hitting home runs for the sake of hitting home runs, a phenomenon that has always entranced me. I remember leaving a friend's birthday party to make sure I was home in time to see Ken Griffey Jr. turn his cap backward and rake a ball 445 feet to the base of a warehouse in Baltimore during the 1993 Home Run Derby. That was an amazing feat at the time, until most sluggers started injecting themselves with bull testosterone and began launching 500-footers with the greatest of ease.
Then, something happened. About five years ago, I stopped watching the Home Run Derby because what had once been an hour-and-a-half-long slugfest had turned into an episode of The View with home runs being hit in the background. But earlier this week, I tuned into the Derby to see if they'd eliminated any of the interviews and announcer chatter that had become more important than the contest itself.
It was basically the same, except perhaps a bit more high tech. The interviews and babble are still omnipresent, but that doesn't matter, because the players are wearing microphones. That means you can hear them talk. Granted, about half of what was said was in Spanish, but it was transcendent to hear Prince Fielder shout obscenities when he popped up. What a great idea. So, hopefully, Ronald ESPN, the owner of ESPN, will take this into consideration and we'll get to hear Big Poppy ordering a pizza on his way to the plate or Brian Wilson praying to the ghost of Ernest Hemingway before each pitch.
Obscenities aside, the Home Run Derby featured at least one heartwarming feature, in that eventual champion Robinson Cano's father pitched to him. But he also pitched to Big Poppy, which was like when a friend leans into your family photo, unaware of the situation. Nevertheless, it was a tender moment, but two hours into the contest, it was tough to care much about this thing. After watching 30 or so ding-dongers, I started wanting more. I wanted the ball to smash a sign or hit a bird or nail one of the announcers who were sitting dangerously close to the plate, or maybe disintegrate a la The Natural.
So yeah, maybe the home run isn't as exciting as I thought... even when accompanied by expletives.